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Toxic Flame Retardants Found in Office Environments


EMSL Analytical offers testing solutions for polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) to help prevent unnecessary human exposure.

Cinnaminson, NJ

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are a class of flame retardant chemicals used in plastics, foams, fabrics and other materials. PBDEs are members of a broader class of brominated chemicals used as flame retardants known as brominated flame retardants, or BFRs. There are dozens of congeners, or varieties of the basic chemical type, of PBDEs.

PBDEs are used in many common household and office furnishing and materials. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “These chemicals are major components of commercial formulations often used as flame retardants in furniture foam (pentaBDE), plastics for TV cabinets, consumer electronics, wire insulation, back coatings for draperies and upholstery (decaBDE), and plastics for personal computers and small appliances (octaBDE). The benefit of these chemicals is their ability to slow ignition and rate of fire growth, and as a result increase available escape time in the event of a fire.”

In June, a study published in the Environmental Health Perspectives entitled “Exposure to PBDEs in the Office Environment: Evaluating the Relationship Between Dust, Handwipes, and Serum” provided new insight into the presence of PBDEs in office environments. The study concluded that “…research suggests exposure to PentaBDEs in the office environment contributes to PentaBDE body burden with exposure likely linked to PBDE residues on hands.”

“Over the last decade the EPA has been investigating PBDEs due to growing evidence that PBDEs persist in the environment and accumulate in living organisms,” reported Joe Frasca, Senior Vice President, Marketing at EMSL Analytical, a leading PBDE testing laboratory. “Toxicological studies have indicated that these chemicals may cause liver toxicity, thyroid toxicity and neurodevelopmental toxicity. Minimizing human exposure, by identify its presence through environmental testing, can help prevent exposure to these chemicals,” he continued.

To learn more about testing for PBDEs, indoor air quality (IAQ) or other environmental issues please visit, call (800) 220-3675 or email

About EMSL Analytical, Inc.
EMSL Analytical is a nationally recognized and locally focused provider of environmental and materials testing services and products to professionals and the general public. The company has an extensive list of accreditations from leading organizations as well as state and federal regulating bodies.


 toxic flame retardants
 PBDE office exposure
 EPA BDE furniture
 environmental health
 dust handwipes serum

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